One: Beniers on the Puck
When Kraken forward and alternate captain Jordan Eberle met with the media after Friday’s practice, he zeroed in on the most impressive part of center Matty Beniers‘NHL debut. He was winning puck battles, behind his team’s own net, along the boards, in the corners.
“For a smaller guy, his first game, he was winning a ton of battles, I liked what I saw there,” Eberle said.
Like all Kraken fans, Eberle was naturally impressed with the newly signed rookie’s first career assist in the first period of his first NHL game. Beniers covered at the point for defenseman Vince Dunn, who moved up into the play. Dunn passed back to Beniers, who faked a shot from outside the faceoff circle and zipped a cross-zone pass to Ryan Donato for the score.
“Winning pucks is one of my strengths,” Beniers said after Tuesday’s game in Calgary.
Video: SEA @ CGY: Donato scores, Beniers earns first NHL point
Coach Dave Hakstol liked his new player’s poise on and off the ice: “He looked comfortable in traffic, which is a big challenge.”
Kraken fans who watch Beniers’ shifts carefully will notice a highly creative offensive player who digs hard for loose pucks and gets back on defense. Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena figures to be fun – and loud.
Two: Gourde Seal of Approval
Like fellow alternate captain Eberle, Yanni Gourde has been quick to praise younger teammates who are fighting for pucks in the tough areas, often facing veterans who might be looking to “welcome” rookies to the NHL. Gourde has been effusive about the puck battles won by his 23-year-old linemate Kole Lind.
“Players notice it and so do coaches,” Gourde said.
Gourde has not met with the media since Beniers’ debut, but a sequence in Tuesday’s first period tells a story of approval. After watching his new teammate battle for pucks – such as winning one from veteran 200-pound center Mikael Backlund behind the Calgary goal – Gourde waited a beat for Beniers to reach the exit gate for Tuesday’s first intermission. Then the high-energy, two-time Stanley Cup winner gave a firm tap to Beniers’ shin guards, then followed him into the dressing room.
Three: New Jersey Devils (26-42-6, 7th place in Metropolitan Division)
New Jersey is in a rebuild with No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft Jack Hughes delivering on his promise most profoundly this season (despite injuries). He has 26 goals and 30 assists in 49 games. Another rookie to watch: Dawson Mercer, 2020 first-rounder (No. 18 overall) has 16 goals and 25 assists in 74 games.